"Our World" theme
week on "Our World" ... A better way to share the bounty of the
world's oceans ... the little robots that could ... and tackling the challenge
of feeding the poor in Africa ...
PARR: "If you could export U.S. levels of
yield, you could double production in East Africa, and you could have almost a
five-fold increase in sub-Saharan Africa."
stories, a hopeful new approach to depression, and more. I'm Art Chimes.
Welcome to VOA's science and technology magazine, "Our World."
way of sharing the catch might save world fisheries
many of the world's fisheries in serious decline, a new approach to
apportioning the catch might be just the thing to prevent further collapse of
fish populations and to replenish this important food resource. As VOA's
Jessica Berman reports, a multidisciplinary team of scientists in California
says a system called "catch shares" could alter the future of global
BERMAN: The world's fisheries are in serious
trouble. Experts say one-fourth of them have collapsed as a result of
over-fishing. At the current rate, a study published in Science two
years ago predicted that the entire industry would go the same way by the
middle of the century.
protect fisheries, countries and communities have established catch quotas
where fishermen compete for stocks.
Costello, an economics professor at the University of California Santa Barbara,
says this results in a race to fish, where independent fisherman buy bigger
boats and larger nets, all in an effort to outdo the competition.
Costello says a plan called "catch shares" could turn the endangered
fishing industry around.
the plan, a community or co-op would give each licensed fisherman a percentage
of the catch.
COSTELLO: "So you as a fisherman know exactly how
many fish you are allowed to harvest during that season. Nobody can take those
fish away from you. No matter how fast I go out and fish, you can fish as
slowly and efficiently as you want to in order to harvest that total catch that
you are allowed to."
BERMAN: Costello and colleagues at the University of
California and the University of Hawaii studied data on 11,000 commercial
fisheries around the world between 1950 and 2003.
study published in Science, researchers found the collapse rate was cut
in half among 121 fisheries that were managed by catch share systems compared
to traditional commercial fisheries.
Lynham is an economics professor at the University of Hawaii.
LYNHAM: "The point of this paper is not that
catch shares are the panacea to the fisheries crisis; but that systems where
fisherman have a financial incentive to care about the long run health of
systems can prevent the crisis."
BERMAN: Some environmental groups have been critical
of catch share strategies because they believe the plan privatizes a public
scientists say the evidence shows less pressure on commercial fisheries as a
result of catch shares both saves and revives fisheries.
week, the European Union announced a full review and plans to overhaul its fishing
policies that it says depletes fish stocks and penalizes commercial fisheries
that play by the rules. Jessica Berman, VOA News, Washington.
shows long-lasting impact of Rwanda genocide
of the most devastating events of the past quarter century was the 1994
genocide in Rwanda. At least 800,000 people were killed in the tribal
bloodletting, and many who survived the carnage were children who had lost many
family members, and frequently one or both parents. As we hear from reporter
Rose Hoban, mental health experts have been assessing the psychological damage
suffered by those survivors, and studying ways to help them heal their
HOBAN: Child psychologist Neil Boris from Tulane
University in New Orleans says almost every family in Rwanda was affected by
BORIS: "Behind that came the HIV epidemic, so
really it's kind of a one-two punch. Rwanda has the highest proportion of what
we call double orphans that is, young people who have lost both parents of any
country where we feel like we have reasonable data. And that's because it's not
just HIV, but it's HIV on top of the genocide."
HOBAN: Many of these young people were left to head
households filled with younger siblings and relatives. And these young people
frequently have no adults who they can turn to for advice and guidance. Boris
says it's a situation that has left many of them emotionally scarred.
partnered with the aid organization World Vision and the Rwandan School of
Public Health to study about 700 of these young family leaders. Many of then
were about 10 years old when the genocide occurred.
says they found about half of them suffered from depression.
BORIS: "The second thing we found was that
taking care of others in the home meant the young people themselves
couldn't pursue school, and only about seven percent of them had even gotten to
secondary school in their lives. The third thing we found out was that their
perceived degree of marginalization from the community and from friends, was
strongly associated with depressive symptoms."
HOBAN: Boris and his colleagues also found that
many of these family groups didn't have enough food to eat. That affected their
physical health, and contributed to the caregivers' depression.
studying the data, the researchers suggested some ways to help these young
BORIS: "By getting adult community volunteers
to reach out and mentor youth heads of household caring for other kids, we've
shown that that alone improves depression over time, improves degree of social
isolation over time, and really helped these young people as time went
HOBAN: Boris is currently working on more ways to
help these young heads of household. He says he believes that with time and
assistance, the young people of Rwanda can get beyond the tragedy of the
genocide and help their society recover.
paper is published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
I'm Rose Hoban.
investment urged to stimilate African agriculture
genocide orphans in Rwanda have trouble feeding their families, they're not the
insecurity is a chronic problem across much of Africa.
the annual National Food Policy Conference in Washington this month, experts
urged major new investments to stimulate agricultural development on the
continent. Véronique LaCapra reports.
KARANJA: "Three quarters of the world's ultra
poor these are people living on less than 50 cents a day live in Africa."
LaCAPRA: Daniel Karanja, a senior fellow at the
Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, says that about a third of
Africa's seven million people are undernourished. He attributes Africa's food
insecurity to a combination of increasing population growth and declining
KARANJA: "This has been going on for a while,
the last 30 years, resulting in a structural food deficit, as food demand
outstrips domestic food supply. Most African countries back in the 70s were net
exporters, now most of them are net importers of food."
LaCAPRA: Karanja blames environmental degradation for
much of the decline in agricultural productivity.
KARANJA: Most smallholder farmers have been
cultivating their farms for five to six decades without fallow [idle seasons],
mining every bit of nutrients and adding very little back."
LaCAPRA: And Karanja predicts that climate change
will exacerbate the problem.
KARANJA: "There is great reliance on rainfall.
And that has become increasingly unpredictable, erratic, and unreliable."
LaCAPRA: The key to improving food security in
Africa, says Karanja, is to invest in agriculture.
KARANJA: "Three out of every four Africans live
in rural areas and depend entirely on agriculture for their livelihood. The most viable means of improving the
livelihood of poor people and achieving rapid poverty and hunger reduction in
Africa is through investments that accelerate agricultural growth."
PARR: "We think that increasing agricultural
yields is at the heart of agricultural sustainability."
LaCAPRA: Michael Parr is a senior manager at the
chemical company Dupont, a founding member of an industry coalition called the
Alliance for Abundant Food & Energy.
PARR: "If you could export U.S. levels of
yield to other parts of the world, you could double production in East Africa,
you could triple production in South Asia, and you could have almost a
five-fold increase in sub-Saharan Africa."
LaCAPRA: U.S. farmers have achieved their remarkable
yields largely through the use of improved seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides.
to Siwa Msangi, a Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research
Institute, achieving such big yield gains in Africa will require some
fundamental changes in the way farmers grow food.
says that well-managed irrigation projects and giving smallholder farmers
access to improved seeds would help maintain yields as climate change makes
rainfall less reliable.
MSANGI: "That's where you need the improved
drought-tolerance, heat-tolerance, salt-tolerant technologies, both from
non-transgenic breeding and transgenic breeding, and I think an evidence-based
approach to judging these technologies equipping the countries themselves to
evaluate the suitability of those technologies for their own systems, and to
LaCAPRA: But for any of these new technologies to be
successful, says rural sociologist Mary Hendrickson, they will need to be
carefully integrated into existing farming systems.
HENDRICKSON: "We've really got to talk about
appropriate and complementary integration of technology, of local and
traditional knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge, with what we learn
through formal agriculture knowledge, science and technology."
LaCAPRA: Daniel Karanja agrees.
KARANJA: "We have to make sure that one, it's
appropriate, two, decisions are made locally, and number three, that there's
capacity to manage those kinds of technologies."
LaCAPRA: For agricultural development to actually
benefit the poor, says Mary Hendrickson, it must create opportunities for
innovation and entrepreneurship that specifically help small farmers. But
Hendrickson adds that farmers will need to balance their increased production
against potential environmental impacts. For Our World, I'm Véronique LaCapra.
latest slang on our Website of the Week
again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative
week, it's a resource for people who want to know more about the English
language in all its contemporary messiness a great place to learn about the
words you won't find in most regular dictionaries.
PECKHAM: "Urban Dictionary is a slang dictionary
with definitions written by people who come to visit the site. So all of its
content is written by normal people like you and me."
Peckham is the founder of UrbanDictionary.com, a site he created as a
can submit a new word, or a new definition for a word already in the
dictionary. Peckham and his team of editors add about 1,000 new entries every
result is an English lexicon that is fun, engaging, and up-to-date, if not
exactly scholarly. It is, we should warn you, full of words you can't say on
the radio. But of course, those might just be the words you need to know about.
PECKHAM: "People have written in to me to tell
me that they use Urban Dictionary to figure out what their kids are talking
about, what their students are talking about, to figure out what people are
talking about at the MTV music awards. Even what politicians say sometimes can
be decoded with Urban Dictionary.com."
it's written by ordinary, mostly young users, not stuffy old editors of
mainstream lexicons, UrbanDictionary.com is a window on not just the English
language but on contemporary culture.
PECKHAM: "I hope Urban Dictionary is a way to
figure out what's going on in American culture. Some people have told me that
after arriving in the United States that Urban Dictionary's been a really
valuable resource to figure out what people are really saying because there's
so much meaning behind words besides what's in the normal dictionary
definition. And Urban Dictionary can help to decode that."
... Especially since every definition
includes an example of contemporary usage at UrbanDictionary.com, or get the
link to this and more than 200 other Websites of the Week from our site, voanews.com/ourworld.
MUSIC: Cafe Soul All-Stars "Urban Jungle"
better radio on VOA's science and technology magazine, Our World. I'm Art
Chimes in Washington.
little robots take a cue from nature
find the term "nano" in the Urban Dictionary, which brings us to our
next story from the NanoRobotics lab at Carnegie Mellon University.
where a team of young inventors is taking inspiration from the natural world as
they develop specialized little robots.
Rosanne Skirble has our story.
SKIRBLE: In the university's NanoRobotics Lab
mechanical engineering graduate student Mike Murphy takes his cue from nature.
MURPHY: "So you see the lights flashing, and
I'll go to my computer and just [hit] some keys to remotely control the
SKIRBLE: Murphy's guide is the gecko, a tropical
lizard with sticky feet. He says it's the millions of microscopic hairs on the
gecko's footpads, which actually connect with the molecular bonds of the
surface material, that give the lizard its remarkable climbing ability.
MURPHY: "By studying these animals we can
create synthetic versions of their adhesives and put them on robots."
SKIRBLE: The tri-legged climbing Waalbot fits into
the palm of Murphy's hand. Its microscopic polymer foot hairs give it some of
the gecko's climbing power, although Murphy, who has positioned a crash pad for
the robot's fall, says his version is on a steep learning curve.
MURPHY: "We have shown the ability to adhere to
smooth surfaces at the same level as a gecko can. But we are also working on
creating structures that can attach to slightly rougher surfaces. And also,
another very large challenge is keeping our adhesive pads clean. Our adhesive
pads will pick up contaminants from the climbing surfaces, but the animals
[geckos] don't have this problem."
SKIRBLE: The Waalbot is designed to carry a payload,
which Murphy says could be a camera or a mobile relay network for a computer
MURPHY: "You can imagine some surveillance or
inspection type of applications where you have, maybe, a robot climbing on the
surface of a building, maybe through the ducts of a building and doing
inspection, looking for damage that might need to be repaired. Even on the
outside of a space shuttle where there really aren't any conventional adhesives
that are useful, you can have a robot that climbs around and looks for damage,
and maybe he can even repair it."
SKIRBLE: Murphy's Waalbot shares lab space with Water
Runner. The robot is modeled after the speedy basilisk lizard, which walks on
water at speeds of 1.5 meters per second in the rain forests of Central and
South America. Graduate student Steven Floyd says the basilisk stays afloat in
the way it slaps and strokes the water.
FLOYD: "Some of the idea that went behind it
was that the basilisk lizard can run on water and it can run on land and it
uses similar motions for both, so the idea being, can we create an amphibious
robot that doesn't actually swim. It just kind of runs all the time and can
also do walking over surfaces."
SKIRBLE: Floyd says while Water Runner could make a
great toy, its ability to operate on land and water broadens its use.
FLOYD: "Looking at partially flooded
environments where if you have any sort of marsh land, where sometimes you have
land, sometimes you have water, you can't also gauge the depth of that water.
So any robot that's geared for land might get stuck or submerged. Any robot
that's geared for water might get trapped because there is land. But something
that could do both could do it. So semi-flooded environments, I think, is a
really good application for this particular robot."
OZCAN: "We turn on the electronic board using
this switch, on-off switch here...."
SKIRBLE: Graduate student Onur Ozcan from Turkey
works nearby on Water Strider. The robotic prototype is fashioned after the
pond skimmer, an insect that can glide over water with little drag or friction.
OZCAN: "If we can mimic this behavior with
really this tiny robot then it's really a very big success for us. We can use
it to measure the quality of water on dams or on any water source."
SKIRBLE: As Carnegie Mellon University graduate
students Onur Ozcan, Steven Floyd, and Mike Murphy sort through mechanical
problems in the NanoRobotics Lab, they continue to marvel at the beauty of the
natural world and the creatures that inhabit it. Onur Ozcan sums up their
OZCAN: "Before working on this project, I mean
they were just like insects, you don't see how amazing they are. I mean, after
working on these projects you begin to realize that their mechanical working
principles are really, really amazing. It really changes your view about
SKIRBLE: Lessons from nature in the NanoRobotics Lab
at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I'm Rosanne Skirble.
hope for hope as a treatment for depression
today, a new weapon in the fight against depression. A study presented recently
at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting indicates hope can
be an effective therapy. Erika Celeste reports.
LONG: "A lot of the people, they come in and
they're grumpy and dissatisfied and they just want the magic answer to be able
to read again. We can't give that to them, but we do have some solutions."
Long volunteers at a low vision center, working primarily with older adults who
are losing or have lost their sight. The petite and rather fragile-looking
34-year-old might seem like an unlikely choice to help those facing a
challenging new phase of life, but her positive attitude is some of the best
medicine they could receive.
LONG: "And I think then when they realize
I've had a sight impairment my whole life, they leave, and a lot of them are
smiling by the time they leave. And I think it's just because they're like,
wow, if she's done it her whole life and I only have to do it for less than
half of mine, but you know what I'm saying?"
is legally blind. Her story and others like it are evidence that Laura Dreer is
onto something. The psychology professor from the University of Alabama at
Birmingham is studying the effectiveness of what she calls Hope Therapy.
DREER: "Hope therapy is something fresh and
new and innovative and it's evidence-based. And we're continually doing studies
is pioneering several studies in the field of hope with her colleague, Jennifer
Cheavens, from Ohio State University. At the Psychology Conference in Boston,
the researchers presented results of a study in which they followed 97 older
adults, newly diagnosed with irreversible sight impairments, and their
DREER: "And those that had high hope were less
likely to be depressed [or] at risk for depression. And there was also a
relationship which we thought was pretty interesting between those patients who
were at risk for depression, the caregivers were also at greater risk for
involves having goals, along with the desire and the plan to achieve them. The
team measured hope using a 12-point scale developed at the University of
Kansas. It uses a questionnaire to rank both the plan, and the motivation and
strength to follow it.
DREER: "If you have vision loss, for example,
all of a sudden that takes hold of your life and it blocks certain goals that
you had in mind and expectations for the future. How well are you able to get
around that and develop new goals?"
surprisingly, Dreer and Cheavens also found that people can be taught to be
more hopeful. So their therapy teaches patients new hope-related skills,
including identifying goals, ways to achieve them, and how to motivate
theorizes that hope therapy may help prevent or curb depression as well as
encourage patients to be more resilient and set new goals.
DREER: "With traditional psychotherapy and
approaches to mental health, a lot of it is focused on psychopathology or what
the person coming into therapy is having problems with. What's wrong? What's
broken? How can we fix that? This is a nice paradigm shift in the sense that it
looks at, what are their strengths? What are they doing right?"
Dreer says hope should be a lifelong experience, hope therapy is a short-term
process, with long-term effects. Though it is still in the development stage,
she and Cheavens are working on what Dreer believes will be about a twelve-week
long program of therapy.
Dreer says she and Cheavens have been
receiving inquiries about using the therapy with a variety of patients, from
wounded soldiers to those suffering from spinal cord injuries.
DREER: "Anybody who's got that goal and all of
a sudden it's blocked, how do you get around that? How do you develop new roots
and avenues to achieving meaning in their lives? Doesn't mean the end of the
world. I think this will give some sense of self efficacy and building upon
and Cheavens hope their therapy program will be fully developed within a year.
Our World, I'm Erika Celeste in Birmingham, Alabama.
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on your radio next Saturday and Sunday as we check out the latest in science
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